Most of us are well familiar with colorful “melamine” bowls, with patterns and textures that are no different from those of our regular dinnerware. However, the latest innovation is set to break that familiarity. Despite the characteristic weight and durability of melamine, “stone melamine” has the appearance and texture of natural stones. This new phenomenon of the global melamine industry is the brainchild of Srithai Superware PLC, one of the world’s largest melamine manufacturers.
“Stone melamine” is a product of creativity and collaboration between Srithai Superware and SCG Chemicals. Dr. Chaichan Charoensuk, Export Director of Srithai Superware PLC, recounts the beginning of the stone melamine development project. “Two years ago, we hoped to make our melamine products more interesting by giving them characteristics that would distinguish them what everybody was familiar with as well as a more natural-looking texture. In the end, we came up with a stone-like texture, which would cater to the demand for natural-looking materials in overseas markets. To set our products apart, we needed new raw materials and therefore enlisted SCG Chemicals, an expert on raw materials and manufacturing, to handle the challenge of researching and inventing new materials for us.”
Mr. Panya Chiaplaem, Technical Services Manager of Thai MFC Co., Ltd., under SCG Chemicals, says that after having received the brief from Srithai, the company’s R&D team, experts with melamine experience , and the production division came together to generate ideas and develop this new product.
“The challenge was that the client was looking for melamine that looked like stone, but we could not use real stones in production because they would scratch the mold. Therefore, we needed to find a new innovation raw material that mimicked the appearance and texture of stone. After many attempts, we finally succeeded.”
Sharing the same sentiment, Dr. Chaichan says that the project was a challenge from the get-go because Srithai hoped to create a new type of melamine that would “wow” to the market and mark a new chapter in the history of the global melamine industry. In addition, once the idea was hit upon, it had to be realized as soon as possible, meaning that the product had to be released to the market quickly, with excellent quality control and suitable costs to ensure competitiveness in the market.
“In addition to the novelty factor, the product had to also meet international standards such as European standards, which presented quite a challenge because it would require physical and chemical tests to ensure that it was non-toxic, food-safe, and dishwasher-safe”
The melamine powder used in the manufacturing of melamine tableware with a stone-like texture has been certified as compliant to the standards of the Europe Economic Community (EU 10/2011), meaning that the material can safely come into contact with food and beverages.
Dr. Chaichan believes that the “stone melamine” project is a good example of a value chain creation, right from the upstream party or the raw material producer to the downstream party or the client, as well as an excellent collaboration between experts from various fields that begins with the client’s needs and subsequently blossoms into the development of a distinctive product that can be released into the market.
“Our clients provide us with marketing information such as the characteristic, weight, and expected price of the product. With 55 years of experience with melamine under our belt, Srithai is an expert in molding melamine products, while SCG Chemicals brings expertise in raw materials and is equipped to their insight into the fast-paced and ever-shifting terrain of the market, enabling them to meet our needs promptly.”
In Srithai executives’ view, this collaborative stone melamine development will bring various benefits. First and foremost, this innovation will help them open up a new market. As the hotel, restaurant, and catering or HORECA industry has enjoyed a rapid growth in recent years and on the lookout for fresh and innovative products, these stone melamine products will be able to meet this demand. In addition, in the process, the company has acquired innovation-related know-how, and the success of the project has encouraged the company’s research team to keep innovating other products in the future such as clay-like melamine.
Similarly, Mr. Panya tells us that the stone melamine project was an excellent collaborative venture because every party shared the eagerness to innovate and constantly had discussions to further improve and develop the product until the project came to fruition.
“Despite how demanding the task has been, SCG Chemicals teams have adhered to their Open and Challenge organizational culture, which refers to the openness to new tasks despite no prior experience and willingness to take on new challenges.” This goes hand in hand with Srithai’s objective to consistently innovate and introduce new melamine products to the market.
“We believe that we will be able to write a new chapter in the history of the global melamine industry and maintain our leadership in the business. We need to keep developing and introducing melamine innovations every year to the point where our customers start anticipating what new melamine products we will launch each year.”
This is an important quest of Srithai Superware, which SCG Chemicals is ready to embark on as a partner to contribute to the development of melamine innovations and write a new chapter in the history of the global melamine industry.